World Heart Day 2022: Is sudden cardiac arrest more dangerous than a heart attack?

Representational image. Shutterstock

Cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) are often used interchangeably. However, SCA and heart attack are two different medical conditions that need different treatments.

SCA is an unforeseen event that can become fatal. According to the data published in the Indian Journal of Anaesthesia, over 70 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home and 90 per cent of people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die. Over 60 per cent of all cardiac deaths occur in India, with an estimated mortality rate of 4,280 per 1 lakh patients.

On the other hand, a heart attack is a condition where a clogged artery stops oxygen-rich blood from reaching a portion of the heart. The region of the heart that is regularly nourished by an artery begins to perish if the blocked artery is not restored immediately. The longer a person goes without therapy, the more serious the consequences become.

What is sudden cardiac arrest? How is it different from a heart attack?

Sudden cardiac arrest is a much more severe condition than a heart attack. It is a situation when the patient’s heartbeat stops unexpectedly and abruptly because of an irregular heart rate and the patient passes away within a few minutes. A patient with SCA will experience little to no warning signs before losing consciousness and collapsing. It is an “electric problem” in which the heart is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body. SCA is now among the leading causes of death on a global scale. It is important to know that the heart begins to beat at a rate of 350-400 BPM (beats per minute) before the arrest.

It is a common misconception that SCA and heart attack are the same thing. A heart attack is a “circulation problem” in which the blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a certain part of the heart. The victim of a heart attack remains conscious, and the heart is still beating.

However, with SCA, the heart immediately stops beating as it does not pump blood throughout the body. The victim begins to breathe strangely and goes into unconsciousness.

What is the link between the two?

These two heart problems are related. The chances of SCA increase after a heart attack or even during recovery. Most heart attacks do not result in sudden cardiac death. But when SCA occurs, a heart attack is a common cause. SCA can also result from other heart disorders that cause changes in the heart’s rhythm. These include heart failure, ventricular fibrillation, thickening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), and lengthy Q-T syndrome.

What is the difference in treatment between SCA and heart attack?

There is only a 10 per cent chance that the victim will survive a cardiac arrest without immediate treatment. To treat a SCA, a defibrillator or CPR can be used to restart the heart in cardiac arrest patients within minutes. After the patient is brought back to life, the focus of the treatment is on determining and minimising the cause of the arrest. For patients who have high-risk conditions, doctors implant a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to bring them into a normal condition. It is a device that shocks the heart with a normal rhythm when an irregular rhythm is detected.

While in a heart attack, the blockages are cleared with thrombolytic therapy. It is used to break up clots. Stents can also be used to treat heart attacks. This medical device is placed using a catheter and props the artery open, ensuring proper blood flow to the heart.

As a result of lifestyle issues like lack of physical exercise, long working hours, and excessive stress, the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest is on the rise, especially in the younger population. People should make significant changes in their lifestyle and get regular body check-ups to prevent heart diseases like SCA and heart attack.

Disclaimer: The article is for educational purposes only. Kindly consult your doctor for a better understanding about your medical condition.

The author is a Senior Consultant Cardiologist & Clinical lead – Cardiac Electrophysiologist Kauvery Hospital, Chennai. Views are personal.

Read all the Latest News, Trending News, Cricket News, Bollywood News,India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.